Friday, April 26, 2019


There were no TV cameras nor the presence of royalty.  No great lighting effects, vast convoys of soldiers nor land rovers loaded with men in berets.  In fact, ANZAC Day in the small town of Esk came comparatively quietly, but to me it was all the more touching for what it wasn’t.  Led by the sounds of the Brisbane Brass Band, there was just the scuff of feet on asphalt… young excited feet, old tired feet; clubs and community groups skipping, marching, limping, bikes and army vehicles cruising from the RSL Hall to the Cenotaph, the odd car carrying some who once sprang to the defence of us all but who now found the two blocks of the main street of Esk beyond them.
As the tramp of the feet and the parade of vehicles got closer to their destination, members of the public who came to pay their respects emerged from shops and their places around the Memorial Park carrying cool drinks, the occasional Aussie flag and a humble homage towards those who served when they didn’t have to. Family names on the Cenotaph honour roll surely still familiar to many in the town.
At 11.00am unprecedented numbers found their places under shade where they could and others where they couldn’t to be welcomed with the passion and unique oratory of Esk RSL Sub-Branch President, Charlie Elwell.  Special guests included Mayor Graeme Lehmann, Father Ian Bailey and Guest speaker, Captain Justin Ryan O.I.C. Support Squadron, 2/14 Light Horse Regiment who spoke so eloquently of the reasons for celebrating what was essentially the failure of an eight-month campaign on the shores of Gallipoli but a victory for resilience, courage, loyalty and self-sacrifice.  Maree was again honoured to sing the Anthem of Australia and I, the New Zealand Anthem, albeit in competition with, though undeterred by the supersonic roar of the RAAF’s F/A 18 Super Hornet’s spectacular flyover. 
Prayers by Father Ian to an interdenominational assembly were interspersed with the slightly hesitant renditions of Amazing Grace and Abide With Me, the lyrics, if not available to those with programmes, known only to those whose memories and voices were beginning to tremble. On this day, the singing by the Esk Community Choir of an ‘Australian Medley’ gave new meaning to the words which celebrate the freedoms Australians have been afforded by the sacrifices of others.
A profusion of wreaths were placed at the cenotaph for the lives lost.  A quiet affair, its muted respect and periods of silence broken eventually by the sounds of ‘The Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’ by bugler Matthew Lukritz.
Veterans and service men then gathered at the Cenotaph in respect of their fallen, many of whom would have been barely older than some of those children who had stepped forward this day to lay wreaths. 
ANZAC Day in Esk  may not have been the big gala but hands down beats the big city for capturing the ANZAC spirit with its human qualities of quiet courage and mateship, of sacrifice and sincerity and we cherish it for what it is.
By: Sue Walker

Monday, April 22, 2019


From the blessing of the open fire outside St Agnes Anglican Church and the lighting of the Paschal candle, through a thoroughly entertaining yet poignant sermon by the peerless Father Ian, to the reminders of baptism through his blessings and sprinkling of blessed water for the faithful, Easter Sunday Service in Esk was a celebration of joy commemorating this day of great religious significance. 

Under the inspiring direction of Alexis and with Margaret’s glorious accompaniment, it is only a handful of days before the ‘Cantiamo Choir’ departs for their long- awaited performance tour to Italy.  Along with Sunday’s liturgy for Easter, this morning was also a celebration of song by the Esk touring Choir with their sublime sounds of praise sung at significant intervals during the service. It was indeed a privilege to have been invited to partake of this special day and to share with a grateful congregation some of the sacred songs this Choir will be performing in some of Italy’s magnificent churches and basilicas.

Saturday, April 6, 2019


The Sweethearts of Song : Kathie, Susie, Carolyn and Maree 
Down a quiet street in Toogoolawah on that muggy humid late afternoon of 29th March, the old wooden building which has stood the test of time as the town’s RSL Hall appeared silent, workmanlike, perhaps a little scruffy but purposeful.  Inside, the ol’ edifice was telling an entirely different story, for within, it was a hive of activity with preparations under way for that evening’s concert by the ‘Sweethearts of Song and Friends’

At 7.00pm the hall began to fill, its proportions swelling with the influx of concert-goers who found their places around the colourfully decorated tables.  With the ever- capable Tom Byrne poised at the audio apparatus and an eager audience already fortified by drinks of choice from the bar, expectations heightened as Kathleen Watts, Susie Walker, Carolyn King and Maree Lansdown who are the ’Sweethearts of Song’, stepped out to take their places at their microphones.  With their colourful costumes, upbeat harmonies and rhythms of well-loved songs from the 60s and 70s, the girls lit up the stage with their first bracket, leaving the audience in no doubt that they were in for a fabulous night of entertainment.
Stop In The Name Of Love:  the Sweethearts of Song 

Making their sparkling debut on a Sweetheart concert stage, the irrepressible duo of Roland Cox and Denis Hawes aka ‘Glenrock Harmony’ charmed the audience with their quartet of enduring evergreens.

Glenrock Harmony:  ' Wake Up Little Susie'

With raffles drawn and won, along came Pete ‘the Plumber’ Edwards who could possibly be riding a fast track to becoming the ‘Fifth Sweetheart’ so regular and welcome are his fabulous performances at Sweethearts’ concerts.  With his many voices, Pete carried concert goers on a life’s journey of first love, lust, the resulting ‘Little Ray of Sunshine’ and finally, remorse…any reference to company present, purely co-incidental!

With an ‘ABBAlanche’ of visually dazzling songs from this celebrated group, the Sweethearts burst onto the stage in a vision of blue and white with their lively performance of ABBA originals, taking the audience back in time and out of their seats to move to the beat of those hits they knew so well.

Sweethearts of Song (SOS) :  Super Trouper

Following a quick costume change and with concert-goers sated on perfectly presented plates of flavoursome finger food put together by catering king, Vern Doyle, the time had come for a final bracket of rockabilly Country classics.  Kicking off with Pete’s ‘Midnight Special’ it was a case of, ’move over Mick Jagger!’ when Pete and the girls commanded the stage with ‘Honkey Tonk Woman’.  Maree’s fabulous lead with Dusty’s ‘Son of the Preacher Man’ and the magic of youth wrapped up in others from Kathie, Susie and Carolyn had concert-goers clamoring for more.  The set culminated with a couple of Shania Twain’s feminist fire-power songs which had many in the audience on their feet along with talented Kilcoy Line Dancers who hit out on the dance floor.  Too much of Pete Edwards is apparently never enough as cries for an encore had Pete with his Joe Cocker tones taming the madding crowd with ‘You Are So Beautiful’…and that’s precisely what they were.

While this has been another successful concert by ‘The Sweethearts of Song’, it did not happen without the support of many.  We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Mr Doug Cook, Toogoolawah RSL President and Mr Sam Turner, RSL Vice President for allowing The Sweethearts the freedom to turn their revered domain into a fabulous concert venue and to Carolyn and Lloyd King for their tireless endeavours to that outstanding end.  We would be lost without the support of our crackerjack ‘roadies’ Tom Byrne, our ace on audio and the indispensable Joann Brown on just about everything else that needs to be done.  We are grateful to the Editors of the Somerset Newspaper who have allowed ‘The Sweethearts of Song’ to jump off their pages into the hearts of their readers.

It would be a gross oversight to not highlight the constant patronage of Toogoolawah IGA and thank them once again for their generous donation of a fabulous fruit and vegetable tray, our main raffle prize which, as it happened on this occasion, was won by a great devotee of Choir and Sweethearts, Felice Evans.   It was back in the latter half of 2018 when Felice’s badgering for ‘another concert by the Sweethearts’ paved the way for this performance and with her ability to ‘sell ice to the Eskimos’ was instrumental in spreading the word.  Finally, but never least, to all our fantastic supporters from within our Esk Choir ‘family’ and others from the Community who have jumped on the Sweetheart bandwagon and made us feel a bit like stars, we give our heartfelt thanks.  

By: Sue Walker

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Esk Community Choir

Faith an’ begorrah...statisticians are saying that one third of Australians are of Irish stock!  Yep, more than eight thousand Australians can trace their roots back to the ‘Olde Sod’ and t’besure, it was a good portion of these gentle folk and many others who make up the patchwork of a population who call the Somerset Region home and some beyond who were lured to the Alexandra Hall in Toogoolawah on this St Patrick’s Day for the Esk Community Choir’s fabulous Irish/Italian/Farewell Concert.

On a day when the south-east corner of Queensland’s landscape was showing signs of turning green, so too was the interior of Toogoolawah’s Alexandra Hall festooned as it was in the colours of Ireland with a hint of Italy for this was not only a celebration of St Paddy’s Day but an opportunity to laud the achievements of ‘Cantiamo’, the Esk Choir which will be heading off next month for a performance tour of Italy.

Councillor Sean Choat is fast becoming a familiar face behind the emcee’s microphone and again this day his eloquence shone through as he confidently shepherded each of the performances throughout the afternoon. 

Joy and Warwich Grewcoe

At 2.30pm, in a bitter sweet moment following her warm welcome to the capacity audience, Choir Director, Alexis FitzGerald stated that she would like to dedicate this concert to Joy Grewcoe, Choir Life Member, friend to many;  whose contributions over her 25 years with the choir were extraordinary; whose stoicism in the face of illness was inspirational; who peacefully passed away on March 9th.  Few knew how to party like Joy Grewcoe so with Joy in their hearts, it was time for a choir to put on a show! 

Adorned in emerald green, the Esk Community Choir singing their Irish welcome sashayed down the aisles leaving the audience in no doubt that they were in for a very special treat.  Kathleen, Susie, Carolyn and Maree, aka The Sweethearts of Song, swapped their nifty sixties style for sophisticated swagger for their performance of ‘I Dreamt that I Dwelt in Marble Halls’ the beautiful aria often quoted in Irish Author James Joyce’s novels.  The full choir then came together on stage for Audrey Snyder’s hymn-like arrangement with a distinctive Celtic air, ‘The Water is Wide’ and few could control the urge to move to the music when ‘McNamara’s Band’ filled the Alexandra Hall.

The Sweethearts of Song

For the next 45 minutes, save for a short interval break for costume changes and the drawing of raffle prize winners, the audience were treated to the sublime sounds of Toowoomba’s HAH… ‘High Altitude Harmony’, the a cappella men’s chorus whose four part barber shop style harmonies took concert goers to places as close to heaven as one can get sitting in a hall.  With close to 25 voices singing tenor, lead, baritone and bass, their passion was palpable as they performed a cross section of genres from ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ to ‘Who Put the Bop in the Bob She Bop’.  The group’s quartet ‘Four on the Floor’ were equally faultless, their performance accelerating the undeniable audience appreciation through generous applause.  With their perfect blend of voices, clarity of sound and their passion for singing, ‘High Altitude Harmony’ will surely be celebrating following their performances at next month’s Sunshine Region (Qld) Barbershop Championships.

High Altitude Harmony 

Alexis FitzGerald OAM appears to be the ‘Girl who cain’t say no’ for it was hot on the heels of the Choir’s last successful European Tour in 2016 that the flame was reignited for yet another and so began the crafting of a Choir group and repertoire for ‘Cantiamo’ …translation, ‘Let’s sing’… in Italy! With now eighteen months of rehearsals under their belts, this is a group who are giddy with anticipation and who were thrilled on St Patrick’s Day to be able to give to concert goers a taste of the songs this choir will be taking to audiences in some of the picturesque places in Italy. To Margaret Philp’s faultless accompaniment and under Alexis’s inspirational direction, they performed their bracket of Italian songs climaxing with ‘Australian Medley’ a fusion of exquisite excerpts from iconic Australian melodies, this giving rise to audience calls for ‘more!’ …and so they did with the beautiful Emily Crocker arrangement of ‘Gypsy Rover’.  With Italian flavours now in the mix it was time to summon to the stage for the finale all choristers as well as a sharpening of audience vocal chords for an all-in rendition of the infinitely popular Italian song ‘Funiculi, Funicula’, ushered in with the first verse Italian lyrics sung by Roland Cox.

"Cantiamo" Choir 

‘Best concert ever!’… ‘when is the next?’… ‘fabulous entertainment!’ were some of the comments bandied around the sumptuous afternoon tea tables.  Even Mother Nature was in on it, obviously having had a high ol’ time enjoying the music for at the end she dazzled all by delivering a deluge of drenching rain which kept concert-goers dining out on the delightful afternoon’s entertainment.
By: Sue Walker

"It says here that a Pixie will be the accompanist today!"
"Yes Sean, I am a Pixie, to-be-sure, but sometimes I come to these
concerts in disguise".

Smiles that can change the world

Hmm! I sense mischief. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Elizabeth , Sue, Di, Jo, Kathie, Sue, Judy, Kerry

Something very special happens when a group of individuals come together creating art in all its forms and so it was when a bunch of ladies from the Esk Community Choir joined forces with the visionary and very talented Donna Clissold from the Lockyer Valley Art Society to create beautiful scarves which will be worn during performances by the Esk Touring Choir, ‘Cantiamo’ when they tour Italy in April/May, highlighting the rich colours of Australia.

Adding the paint to the bath

This day was not only a fusion of the blues, yellows and oranges of sea, sky and land but a blending of communities who came together with a mutual goal. The Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Brisbane regions were all represented as, under the guidance of Donna, each one in turn squirted, soaked, swirled with sticks, squished and finally swung in the breeze twenty beautiful scarves each one surprising its maker, each person in turn creating patterns unique to the other.

And though the day was a labour of love from early morning until completion, there were grateful intervals of respite when gracious host, Elizabeth Browne, supplied snacks to sustain the workers amid the inspiring setting of her artist’s courtyard, complemented at the end of the day by some delightful singing by choir members.  

A visit by Lockyer Valley Councillors Janice Holstein and Michael Hagen was further acknowledgement of this unique collaboration of the Regions.

Whether art be created with brush in hand, the marbling of colours in a painter’s bath or the instruments of orchestra or voice, beyond what is seen or heard, art is about how it makes people feel and on this day of connection and creation, there was a bunch of ‘artists’ heading home with great smiles of achievement and delight.
By: Susan Walker

Donna preparing the Marble Bath

Sue and Jo Preparing the Silk Scarves
Sue watching the paint dry

Dancing with the finished product
Representing the Australian landscape and oceans
the Ladies scarf complementing the Men's shirt

The touring choir 

Monday, February 11, 2019


Australians, both ‘old’ and now new from the Somerset Region, all did rejoice at this year’s Awards Presentation and Citizenship Ceremony held at the Somerset Civic Centre on January 26th.  Following introductions by Emcee, the effervescent Brady  Schultz, the boy from Lowood who has become a testament to his “Healthy Lifestyles Australia” programmes, and a welcome address by the Federal Member for Blair, Hon Shayne Neumann,  Mayor Graeme Lehmann delivered his own welcoming words before bringing to the podium Mrs Faye Carr, Ipswich Citizen of the Year, NADOK Elder of the year and Somerset’s Australia Day Ambassador.  The very courageous Fay rose above her ‘nervous knees’ to captivate her audience as she spoke of respect, diversity and the need to embrace cultural differences whilst giving a compelling insight into her life growing up as a Part Aboriginal woman.
The presentation of the Australia Day Awards followed as, in turn, category nominees were called to the stage.  Unenviable would have been the task of choosing winners amongst so many deserving individuals and organizations.  Eventually came the call for stewards in the category of ‘Community Group of the Year’. Represented by Alexis on stage there was a ‘pep squad’ of Choir Members in the audience who were on the edge of their seats waiting for Alexis to step forward to collect the prize for the Esk Community Choir.  However, for their dedication to the assistance of Community members, this year the Lions Club of Esk were the deserved winners, our choir being the recipients of much of that generosity.
It is with gratitude to our own Greg Skippen who felt motivated to submit a compelling nomination for this Award following the success of our brilliant 40th anniversary year. We feel we have been more distinguished by the honour of your nomination than we could have been by yet another framed certificate in the cabinet.  Thank you, Greg.
By: Sue Walker

Saturday, December 8, 2018


Esk Community Choir with Strings and Things Orchestra

Some say that Summer is here when the chair rises before you do!  However, on December 2nd, despite the onset of sweltering Queensland heat and winds scarily whipping up the smoky haze, there were no such sticky situations in sight but the cool comfort of the Somerset Civic Centre where so many of the Esk Community Choir’s fans and followers converged to be distracted and entertained at the Choir’s Annual Christmas Concert, their 28th, and a fitting finale to a wonderful 40th birthday celebratory year.

Councillor Sean Choat is fast becoming a familiar figure at the emcee’s podium and on this occasion, again very capably shepherded the show along from the outset to its magnificent conclusion. 

At 2.30pm, following the warm welcome by Choir Director, Alexis FitzGerald and a stirring accompaniment of the National Anthem by Somerset’s own Matthew Lukritz, an Ensemble of Choir ladies, through the words and music of the Gilbran/Brunner O Music, gave a display of what it is to ‘see with your ears’ and ‘hear with your hearts’, senses heightened by the beautiful accompaniment of Margaret Philp on piano and cellist Graeme Souster.

Graeme Souster
Ladies Ensemble - O Music

It is said that ‘art begins where effort ends’ an adage demonstrated by members of the concert’s featured guests, Strings and Things, their appearance made possible through the generosity of Bendigo Bank. Hailing from the Sunshine Coast, this wonderful ensemble’s seemingly effortless performances during both halves of the concert were an expression of the art of making beautiful music.  From J.S.Bach’s sublime Brandenburg Concerto No 3 and Adagio to a medley of Muppet melodies complete with appearances by Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear,  this is an Ensemble of highly accomplished musicians, their performances both as an Ensemble and in collaboration with the choir, truly highlights for concert goers.  

Strings and Things Orchestra

Nedi Granzien
Equally tantalizing were the performances by Nedi Granzien.  Still at the tender age of 13, Nedi has moved well past the exuberant promise of a talented little tot performing since the age of 9 with The Semitones, to apparent maturity as a solo singer. Nedi recently was awarded the Girls’ Championship Trophy for 13 years and under at this year’s Silkstone Eisteddfod. With an obvious passion for music and singing as she constantly seeks to embrace new challenges and under the tutelage and encouragement of Alexis and the guidance and support of a loving family, Nedi was the obvious choice for this year’s Esk Community Choir $1000.00 Bursary, presented to her on this day as a stepping stone to further musical opportunities.  Nedi’s O Holy Night solo collaboration with the Choir and her heartfelt rendition of Scorn Not His Simplicity performed with all the sensitivity and pathos Phil Coulter’s words evoke were further evidence of her emerging gifts and an exciting future both creatively and personally as she continues her musical journey.

So spare a thought for The Sweethearts of Song, Kathleen, Susie, Carolyn and Maree who had to follow Nedi on stage! However, with a growing demand for their sublime harmonies of well-loved songs from the decades, the girls again had concert-goers smiling and tapping to the beat of Aretha and ABBA evergreens.  

The Sweethearts of Song

As Christmas Concerts would not be complete without the some of the meaningful sounds of the season, it was again the turn of the talented trumpeter Matthew Lukritz to bring The Little Drummer Boy to life alongside the Choir.  Backed by the Choir, the breathtaking duet The Prayer was so beautifully performed by Kathleen Watts and Eric von Nida. The Esk Ladies Choir then followed with their dynamic rendition of the very challenging but equally beautiful Festival Te Deum by Linda Spevacek.

Kathleen and Eric - The Prayer

While it may not seem synonymous with the season of Christmas, Who Are the Brave was the powerful song performed so beautifully by the Choir Men, a song which speaks a language of love; a love transmitted through ‘those who serve mankind’ …surely the substance of a Christmas story.  
Tenor & Bass Section - Who are the Brave
The artistry of the combined performance by the Esk Community Choir and Strings and Things as they came together to present the finale was a language only of which the songs themselves could convey.  The stirring Sanctus by Gounod and beautiful Christmas Carols in concert with the audience left all in no doubt of the store of wonderful performances yet to come in 2019. 

And as the hall slowly cleared, concert goers all replete from a diet of wonderful music, a delectable afternoon tea, a few with raffle prizes and many with bags of gifts and goodies from the craft and condiments stall, many were singing the praises of this year’s delightful afternoon of entertainment.
By the time concert day comes around, the final product may often appear effortless… but it is not.  It requires the support of many amazing people.  Perhaps ‘support’ may not be the right word…Love, dedication and patience may be more accurate and with that in mind, here is a list of some amazing people who are those creators.

First and foremost, Alexis FitzGerald OAM whose passion is contagious, whose patience should be bottled, whose gifts of music are those that keep on giving; a generous spirit and ‘Angel of Music’ without whom this choir would cease to exist. 

Margaret Philp, accompanist, whose talents and long hours of practice are often overshadowed by the singers for whom she plays but who never fails to open her heart and home to anyone in need and who makes the best slices this side of the Great Divide. 

Then there is the generosity of sponsors who never fail to fill our outstretched hand. To the Editors of The Somerset Newspaper without whose support my stories and articles would still be just Word documents on my computer. There’s  Darryl Green Photography, Toogoolawah’s Boutique Meats, Lowood and Fernvale Bendigo Bank, Esk Lions Club, Toogoolawah IGA, St John Biarra Lodge No. 73, Esk Caravan Park, Grand Hotel, the Esk Fruit Shop, Red Deer CafĂ©  and so many other generous contributors to whom this choir is completely indebted. 

There is an amazing Choir Committee who work tirelessly behind the scenes along with a whole host of choir members who oft times go unrecognized for their volunteering roles which make our events flow so smoothly and finally, it is to all our dedicated fans and followers whose smiling faces are constantly a presence at so many Choir events; who have become so much a part of the 40 year life of the Esk Community Choir and for whom we continue to exist. 

To all, Peace, and Joy this Festive Season
and may 2019 bring many blessings your way.

by Sue Walker 
Nedi Granzien receiving the Bursary from Alexis

Suzanne Clemence  on Flute - Sanctus

Fozzy Bear - AKA Lloyd

Kermit the Frog - AKA Eric